By Jeff Rusack  |  WKBW  |  May 04, 2021, 12:13 AM

Can employers mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees?

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — New York State is starting to open again. The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is going down, the number of vaccinated people is going up.

May 19th capacity restrictions on New York businesses end, unless a business cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between people.

“For events that can show proof of vaccination or recent negative tests, the six-foot limit does not need to apply,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo at a media briefing on Monday.

With this easing of COVID-19 restrictions more people will be able to head back into the office. But, are employers allowed to enforce a mandatory vaccine policy?

“It is legal,” said James Grasso, a Phillip-Lytle who specializes in labor issues. “Employers can mandate their employees be vaccinated, with two exceptions. One is someone has a medical problem that prevents them from getting the vaccine or if they have a religious objection then the employer would have to consider accommodating them.”

Can an employee who chooses not to follow a mandate, without one of those reasons, be fired for not receiving one?

“Yes,” said Grasso. “The employer could, if the employee refused to get vaccinated, they could eventually terminate the employee.”

Before vaccines were being widely distributed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission set up guidelines for vaccines mandates. Businesses are not required to have a vaccine mandate. Any employees should check with their employer to see what their policy is.